Food inflation grows at slowest pace in 22 months


Packets of maize flour on display at a supermarket in Nairobi. PHOTO | BONFACE BOGITA | NMG

Food inflation increased by 6.9 percent, the slowest pace in 22 months in February, pointing to an easing in the cost of living, according to latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

The last time food prices rose by a slower rate, 6.4 percent, was in April 2021, a period when the country was still grappling with a drought that reduced the harvest of critical staples.

But with the country recording better rainfall towards the end of last year, harvests of such crops as maize and some vegetables improved, leading to a drop in prices.

“Prices of tomatoes, sugar, maize, grain-lose and maize flour-lose dropped by 5.7, 4.6, 3.4 and 1.6 percent, respectively, between January and February 2024,” said Benjamin Avusevwa on behalf of KNBS Director General.

However, prices of spinach, sukuma wiki and wheat flour increased by 3.9, 3.4 and 2.6 percent respectively.

Year-on-year, even the prices of sukuma wiki and spinach dropped. However, prices of beans, carrots, beef with bones, Irish potatoes, broken rice and wheat flour increased in February this year compared to the same month last year.

For the many low-income households, food takes up a huge chunk of their income, which means that lower food prices offer massive reprieve to the millions of poor Kenyans.

Due to lower prices of food inflation — a measure of cost of living over the last 12 months— slowed to a 23-month low of 6.3 percent in the review month.

President William Ruto, who took power on a platform of easing the cost of living for the majority of poor households opted to cushion farmers against the high cost of fertilizer. His government has supplied cheap fertilizer to farmers.

The rains also helped the country to significantly cut its import bill in the month of December last year to 9.33 percent of the total imports easing the pressure on its dollar reserves.

Food import bill as a share of total imports had touched a high of 17.22 percent in July last year as the country burned through its dollar reserves to import cooking oil, beans and rice.

The 6.3 percent inflation is the lowest since the March 2022 rate of 5.56 percent and remains within the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) band of between 2.5 percent and 7.5 percent.

The cost of fuel and electricity, however, has remained high owing to a weak shilling that has pushed the price of refined petroleum. Diesel is used by thermal power producers with Kenya Power passing on the additional cost to Kenyans.

In the first week of February, the CBK’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) raised its benchmark lending rate to a 12-year high of 13 percent owing to the weak shilling and concerns that the inflation rate had remained stuck in the upper bound of between five and 7.5 percent.

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.